Sunday, January 01, 2012

TV: The Toxic Drips Of Tiny Penises

As 2012 kicks off, we would believe that this is the year the Water Cooler Set gets its act together and starts doing the job the critics are supposed to as opposed to the self-stroking and doling out 'linkage love' to their peers in an endless circle-jerk. We'd love to believe that this is the year they step up to the plate and act like an adult. But they've repeatedly demonstrated they're incapable of behaving like grown ups.


First step in being an adult? Holding your peers accountable. That would mean ending sexism.

While racism isn't acceptable, sexism is. Homophobia is when it's presented by a White man who's a critics darling. Otherwise, even homophobia is out. But sexism reigns supreme.

And if peers won't hold one another accountable, maybe employers need to?

In other words, Green Bay Press-Gazette, it's time to fire Thomas Rozwadowski's whose soft-porn has stunk up TV criticism quite enough already. In his year in review, Thomas types as though he's writing for Penthouse, letting you know he finds Zooey Deshcanel enchanting -- even though he can't stand her show. He can't stand any woman. And he seems to think he was hired to express that. A year-in-review that fails to praise even one woman? A year-in-review that treats Whitney as if it's the worst sitcom of the year?

Did he not catch The Paul Reiser Show?

TV could last 100 more years and it is doubtful anything worse than The Paul Reiser Show could air.

Rozwadowski's piece is entitled "A look at the best, worst and just plain irritating of TV in 2011." Women, when mentioned by the 'critic,' make up the "worst and just plain irritating." Do the people of Green Bay really need to suffer through Rozwadowski's issues with women?

Then there's Phillip Ramati with The Macon Telegraph serving up his top ten "2011: Worst of the Year." He did see The Paul Resier Show and ranks it the eighth worst thing about TV in 2011. Coming in ahead of it, at number four? Whitney Cummings. He hates her in Whitney and he hates the other show she created Two Broke Girls. Of Whitney, Ramati insists, "Most people acknowledge the latter to be pretty god-awful, yet NBC keeps it around and in a plum timeslot (thought not for much longer)."

"Most people"?

You don't mean viewers. Even with the non-stop attacks on Whitney, it was still a ratings hit for NBC. Not only was it a hit on Thursday nights, it's delivering already on Wednesday nights as well. As Bill Gorman (TVbytheNumbers) reported December 20th, "On Wednesday, December 14 from 8-9 p.m. ET, a rebroadcast of 'Up All Night' averaged a 1.1/3 in adults 18-49 and 3.5 million viewers overall. Note that so far this season first-run telecasts of 'Up All Night' have been adding on average 47 percent to these next-day 'live plus same day' ratings when Nielsen issues “live plus seven day” results. From 8:30-9 p.m. ET, an encore telecast of 'Whitney' (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.2 million viewers overall) retained 100 percent of its 18-49 lead-in from 'Up All Night' and built on that lead-in among adults, men and women 18-34."

Unlike Ramati's treasured Community, Whitney actually delivered viewers. The first ten new episodes of the season never made it higher than 3.98 million. All but two new episodes of Whitney broadcast on Thursday nights scored better than that. In addition, Community's posting lower numbers than last season. "Most people" were watching Whitney and "most people" were not watching Community judging by the viewers. (Community has not been cancelled. It's not even technically "dropped." NBC is plugging it back in mid-season when they see which new show isn't worth keeping.)

Not only was Whitney not the worst sitcom of the year, it wasn't even the worst of the fall season. That would be Free Agents which, you'll notice, the Whitney bashers are rushing to forget. And could someone -- an editor maybe -- tell Ramati that "hot chics" really isn't the way to refer to women in newspaper?

Where there are attacks on women, there is Perez Hitlon, a hateful little sexist whose vile garbage has aged about as well as his bloated face (not at all). When when a woman's being stoned, Perez rushes over with his pebbles. Why? Jealousy? Vagina envy? Does it even matter?

Facts certainly don't. Matt Zoller Seitz, another bald White man weighing in on what's cool and doesn't society need that?, wants you to know how bad Whitney is -- though he allows it's not the worst show, it's "slightly better" than the worst show. And Matt won't be bound by facts or logic. Here he is yacking about TV at Salon:

The big problem is that the best half-hour comedies -- NBC's amazing “Community” and mostly very good “30 Rock” and “The Office,” FX’s “Louie” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” HBO’s “Enlightened” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the unfortunately just-canceled “Bored to Death” on HBO -- are so stylistically and tonally adventurous that when you see something a bit more traditional, like the Whitney Cummings shows or “Up All Night,” it just feels like a relic, a nostalgia act. You know? Why are invisible people laughing at everything? Why is the lighting so bright? And in order to make an impression on viewers who’ve grown to expect something more, a retro sitcom has to be either really beautifully constructed, as the super-traditional three-camera sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” was back in the day, or it has to be just total anarchy. Cute and just-sort-of-OK doesn’t cut it anymore. Nasty and just-sort-of-OK describes why “Two and a Half Men” was such a hit for so many years.

First please notice that all the sitcoms he praises are male dominated. That includes 30 Rock which, as we've long noted, has a ton of male charcters and Jenna. Tina and Alec may star as Liz and Jack, but the show is all male, male, male with Jenna and female extras Sue and Cerie who have been given just a splash more to say in five seasons than Holly Hunter had to say in all of The Piano.

These are not 'ensemble' shows. These are male dominated shows. Whitney, by contrast, is an ensemble show as was Friends. Note that he can praise the scum of TV (Two and a Half Men) and wonder why that is?

But notice the facts. Whitney? Yes, it is recorded before a live audience. Good. Desilu pioneered that and we applaud Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball for that and for giving us the three camera show. But, thing is, Up All Night?

No, Matt, it's not recorded before a live audience, there's no laugh track.

If you really are hearing laughter when you watch it and you're watching it alone (we'd believe that, who'd want to spend time with you), then we'd suggest you visit a doctor to talk about your inner demons because the show has no laugh track and isn't filmed before a studio audience.

While you're there, Matt, you might want to ask if lighting is really the way to critique a sitcom? And explore whether the fact that you're unable to physically produce or manufacture, that you write about TV -- and not sports -- is why you need to attack women so? If, in attacking women, you manage to ease your wounded male ego?

It's a sickness.

To be clear, not liking Whitney doesn't make you a sexist. It's the manner in which you write, both your word choice and the scope you provide (such as presenting the male as norm and the female as deviant). For example, James Poniewozik of Time magazine manages to critique TV all the time without ever resorting to sexism (even when sharing his distaste for Whitney) or expressing some latent need to kill Mommy.

Sadly, he is an exception. It's equally true that you don't need a penis to be a sexist and some of the worst attacks have come from women. We were reminded of that a few weeks back when The Huffington Post -- which, remember, teamed two women to attack the then-brand news show -- decided to feature a woman writing about food poisoning and the woman needed to work in her Whitney slam.

And then there's Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker who used the end of November to reveal what a hateful thing she is, what a coward she is and how she lacks the critics one sole super power (the ability to think). Nussbaum wanted you to know that she believes Whitney Cummings is hated because of the way she looks. She then stretched that plausible thesis by insisting that Olivia Munn, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman and Whitney Cummings have "model-skinny looks."

Whitney could be a model and probably Olivia. But Chelsea Handler is well groomed. Not pretty. Not beautiful. As for Sarah Silverman? Since Proctor & Gamble stopped doing their Good Pretty Blond and Bad Dowdy Brunette detergent commercials decades ago, we're having trouble figuring out exactly what work Nussbaum believes Silverman could book?

There's nothing wrong with Silverman or Handler's looks. But if you're going to insist that they have "model-skinny" looks, if that's the premise of your argument, the women need to have those looks. If, instead, readers are sitting there with furrowed brow in dropped jaw amazement, you've destroyed your own argument before you've begun.

Then lazy and illogical Nussbaum wants to tell you that Whitney Cummings problem is that she's like Lucille Ball was on TV. Ball was on primetime TV in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. She did not play Lucy Ricardo for four decades. (Though many viewers would have been just fine with that.) Nussbaum needs to stipulate which Ball persona she's speaking of. Her failure to do so goes to the fact that she's a poorly educated person in the field she chooses to specialize in. She writes (and she means I Love Lucy's characterization though she fails to note that):

In Ball’s era, this was a depressing but subversive perspective: it was exciting simply to see a woman clown, even if she always lost, even if she was literally spanked for her rebellion. But, in the age of "Bridesmaids" and "Parks and Recreation," "Whitney"'s battle of the sexes feels off, airless-- self-loathing disguised as self-assertion.

A battle of the sexes? Who's fighting?

Emily Nussbaum apparently brought her own relationship problems to work. And she may also be confusing Whitney Cummings' stand up with the TV show Whitney. Thus far, the show has utilized Whitney's stand up routine about the silent treatment not being seen as punishment by your mate. That's really it.

The show is about relationships. Not just romantic ones, relationships of all kinds. That's what the bad breakup between Alex and Mark was about. And, in that episode, we didn't see Whitney battling with Alex. We saw her understanding how important Mark's friendship was to Alex and we saw her step in to try to heal the rift.

These are moments Nussbaum deliberately avoids. That's not surprising when her argument is so void of logic.

What is surprising is that this woman starts out (rightly) describing a public stoning of a woman (Nussbaum maintains the stoning is due to Cummings' looks) but then uses the remainder of her column to join in the public stoning? It's as though she wrote a piece decrying the death penalty and then used the last third of her column to call for an execution.

These people are sick.

You can count the number of grown ups in the Water Cooler Set on one hand.

And that lack of maturity is why you have Terry Gross and her endless male critics (there's one token female, she reviews books). David Bianculli was gas bagging to Terry last week and, possibly because we've made such a big deal (and only us -- there's no sisterhood in the Water Cooler Set) about how he has managed to discuss the year-in-TV in the past without ever mentioning a woman by name, he switched it up a little bit.

In order, these are his name checks (we're leaving out some men who were mentioned in titles of shows such as "Ken Burns . . ."): Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin. Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, Joe Rogan, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, Rick Pery, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Howard Gordon, Dan Castellaneta, Amy Poehler, George Clooney, Grant Heslove, Sally Field, the Smothers Brothers, Edward R. Morrow, Randy Newman, Pery Como,

Only Claire Danes (Homeland) and Amy Poehler were featured in clips. Claire for a TV show he liked. Amy? Because a scene of her show mentioned David by name, they played it on Fresh Air. He didn't have anything to say about Parks and Recreation, really, just how great it was that he was mentioned on it.

The level of 'criticism' quickly sunk lower.

The Smother Brothers? Yes, that was an odd reference but David wrote a book on them. And George Clooney and Grant Heslove? They're optioning it for a film -- which is how Edward R. Morrow comes up as David and Terry gush over the film on Morrow that Clooney and Heslove made.

This was TV criticism?

This was journalism?

For those keeping track at home, 22 men were name checked, 7 women.

If you think NPR makes up for the sexist nature of Terry's all male posse by offering balance elsewhere, you are wrong. Remember that's the radio network that was pimping sexist stereotypes in September. And as we noted then:

It's on NPR where Terry Gross brings on TV and film critics. All men. But it's not just Terry, now is it? Over the summer, Morning Edition decided it was time to review Oprah's new channel. If you thought a woman would be assigned that task, you forgot how sexist NPR is.
That's how you got a commentary from a man which included, "This may be the most harrowing assignment I have ever tackled for NPR: spending a day watching Oprah Winfrey's new cable channel. [. . .] I consider myself a confident guy, but it's a little scary to enter a world where my concerns are among the least considered in the universe. OWN is aimed directly at women. It's a world of swimsuit dos and don'ts, lunch with the girls and makeovers."
In the 1970s that would have been considered patronizing and sexist and that's before we get to the man's knuckle dragging efforts in his cooking remarks.

He was back, the Oprah 'critic,' Eric Deggans, on Morning Edition Friday
. Like an Esquire "Women We Love" peep show feature from earlier deacdes, he opened with, "Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?" It never got better.

Why is it that NPR can't feature women providing TV criticism? Two leading papers (The New York Times and The Washington Post) feature females providing strong critiques of TV. But NPR can't find one woman to make a regular? Whatever happened to their supposed diversity mandate?

Part of the reason TV sucked so long in the first half of the '00s was the Water Cooler Set. The power they had they squandered and abused. As a result, networks listen to them less and less. Having wasted far too much money on bad, non-entertaining shows that the Water Cooler Set swore were wonderful (if you wanted to do a disseration on all the sources they plagiarized), the networks has learned that the Water Cooler Set doesn't reflect the viewers. Once upon a time, they were supposed to be a line of defense. They were supposed to argue for better TV and to rail against bad TV. In the '00s, a bunch of bald White men (and people of color and White women who enable them) took over and they've been jerking one another off ever since. No one wanted to see that, no one needed.

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